MLB Rumors: One 2012 Free Agent Each Team Could Target After the Season

J. BatovskyCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2011

MLB Rumors: One 2012 Free Agent Each Team Could Target After the Season

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    While the 2011 free-agent frenzy has pretty much come and gone, there is always next year. Let's take a sneak peek at what might be in store for the winter of 2012.

    A solid crop of talent that will be on the open market, including Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Aramis Ramirez, Rickie Weeks, Carlos Beltran, Mark Buehrle, Jonathan Papelbon and maybe even Albert Pujols.

    On top of those names are some players that have 2012 options on their contracts. Some people on this list are Nick Swisher, Brandon Phillips, Rafael Furcal, Chris Carpenter, Roy Oswalt, and Rafael Soriano.

    I'll try to predict which of these players' options will or won't be picked and see who might be interested in those who I believe may become available.

    One player who could completely turn the 2012 free-agency period upside down and is CC Sabathia. He can opt out of the remaining four years and $92 million remaining on his contract with the Yankees.

    Now THAT would make things real interesting.

Atlanta Braves, Aramis Ramirez, 3B

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    The Braves biggest need will be in trying to find someone to fill Chipper Jones' spot at third base. I don't see Chipper returning for the 2012 season.

    The best free-agent option the Braves will have at third base will be Aramis Ramirez. I know he has had some injury issues the past few seasons, but not any more so than Chipper has had.

    Ramirez is a better all-around hitter than people give him credit for. He can hit for both average and power and doesn't strike out nearly as much as you think.

    He would be a perfect fit.

Philadelphia Phillies, David DeJesus, OF

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    Jimmy Rollins is a free-agent, Roy Oswalt has a $16 million mutual option, Raul Ibanez is really old and they will most likely buy out Brad Lidge. That leaves the Phils with a few holes to fill.

    There are a lot of potential closer candidates out there next winter, so I think they will focus their energy elsewhere to start.

    I think they will go in the direction of a left-fielder to replace Ibanez. There aren't a lot of top candidates, but one that does seem to fit is David DeJesus.

    He can step right in at the top of the batting order, and he will get on base more than Jimmy Rollins ever did. That will make the middle of that lineup that much better.

    DeJesus is also versatile in that he can play all three outfield positions.

    Versatility is always a good thing. Just ask the Swiss Army how much they like that knife.

New York Mets, Paul Maholm, SP

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    Pending litigation surrounds Mets' ownership and the victims of the Madoff fraud scheme. I won't go into detail, but if things don't go their way, the Wilpons et al. will be owing someone a lot of money, and it won't be Albert Pujols.

    The positive about 2012 is that a lot of salary is slated to come off the Mets' books. One way or another Oliver Perez will be sent packing; Jose Reyes is a free-agent as is Carlos Beltran.

    K-Rod could conceivably be gone as well. He has a $17.5 million team option, but there is a chance the option could become vested if he reaches certain GF benchmarks.

    I'm confident the Mets have no intention of letting that happen.

    So where do the Mets go in 2012? I could see them going after a guy like Paul Maholm if his option is not picked up by the Pirates.

    There's nothing all that flashy or special about him, but he should be an affordable veteran to plug into the 3 or 4 spot in the rotation.

    If the Mets' finances are on more solid ground, I'd expect a bigger splash.

Washington Nationals, Albert Pujols, 1B

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    Steven Strasburg should be back at full strength and Bryce Harper might just be starting in the OF by then as well.

    Young players such as Wilson Ramos, Drew Storen, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa will hopefully have developed significantly by 2012.

    Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth should be providing some quality veteran leadership.

    The two spots where the Nationals should be looking for help are first base and starting pitching.

    Albert Pujols would fit brilliantly in Washington. Putting his bat with Zimmerman's and Werth's would solidify the heart of the lineup, plus he would bring an additional veteran presence to the clubhouse. 

    I'm not sure if I can see Pujols leaving St. Louis, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him wait and test the free-agent waters. By signing an extension now, it's possible that Pujols could end up underselling himself.

    Washington has already shown that they are willing to go big.

    It doesn't get any bigger than Pujols.

Florida Marlins, Rickie Weeks, 2B

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    Florida isn't known for dabbling too often in the free-agent market, but they have an interesting situation coming up next year.

    The Marlins will be moving into their new retractable-roof stadium for the 2012 season. When a new ballpark opens, that usually means a spike in team revenue, which often leads to an increase in payroll.

    I have a feeling that the Marlins' brass will be looking to put a good product on the field when they christen the new park.

    There's no sense in building a beautiful new facility and sending out a team resembling that of a pile of dog poo in the back yard.

    The Marlins will probably still be smart with their money, and Rickie Weeks fits for them in more ways than one.

    Weeks, a Florida native, would already have a built-in fan base and, when healthy, he can be simply electrifying.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jose Reyes, SS

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    It's quite possible that the Brewers will be in need of a 1B, 2B, SS and CF going into the 2012 season.

    Doug Melvin has told anyone who will listen that the Brewers are going for it all in 2011. A lot of what happens in 2012 revolves on whether or not the Brewers will be retooling or rebuilding.

    If they are rebuilding, I would expect them to bring in a veteran to add stability and leadership to a young ball club.

    If they are retooling, they will look to plug one of their gaping holes in a big way.

    I expect them to retool for another run.

    Shortstop is a position of scarcity. Really good well-rounded shortstops don't come along all that often. That's why I see the Brewers making a play for Jose Reyes. He would fit perfectly into manager Ron Roenicke's aggressive philosophy on the base paths.

    Reyes would only be 29 and still in his prime. I think he's an ideal fit.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jonathan Broxton, CL

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    The Pirates...I'm not really sure what to say here.

    This year they signed a few decent pitchers and a solid 1B in Lyle Overbay. They have four pretty promising young players in Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutcheon, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata, but the rest of the roster is somewhat underwhelming.

    Getting a top free-agent to go to Pittsburgh is one thing, but that would be contingent on an extremely attractive payday for the player. I can see a few players the Pirates might look at to fill some of their holes.

    Jonathan Broxton seems to be a fit for the Pirates. He's still young and should be entering his prime—he just needs to get himself refocused.

    The odds are he will be affordable and at the very least he should be a solid set-up guy, if not the closer.

Houston Astros, Scott Kazmir, SP

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    The Astros have some good young talent, but they will definitely still have needs in 2012.

    I can't see Carlos Lee back with the club at that point, so obviously LF would be a need as would SS and 2B. Then there is the old adage, "You can never have enough pitching."

    Seeing as though the Astros don't usually go crazy in free-agency, I expect them to take a calculated risk.

    Going after a guy who had success early in his career but has battled back from injuries sounds like the type of gamble they would be willing to take.

    After his $13.5 million club option is not picked up, I expect the Astros to make a serious play for Scott Kazmir.

    He's a boom or bust guy in my opinion, and I think the Astros would be willing to take that risk.

Chicago Cubs, Nick Swisher, OF/1B

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    By signing Carlos Pena this offseason, I have a hard time understanding exactly what the Cubs might be willing to do in 2012.

    They followed that up by trading for Matt Garza. Maybe they are trying to reunite the Tampa Bay Rays AL Championship squad from a few years ago.

    They will be lucky that the Pena deal was only for one year because they would have been a bigger laughing stock if it were for any longer.

    Kosuke Fukudome is a free agent as well. I could see the Cubs going right back out and signing someone who can play both 1B and RF.

    That someone would be Nick Swisher.

    The Yankees have a $10.25 million team option on him, and I think they could go either way. If they let him walk, the Cubs should be all over him—in a platonic way, of course.

St. Louis Cardinals, Mark Buehrle, SP

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    The Cardinals are going to lose a couple of huge pieces from their team.

    I believe Pujols will leave and never look back, and they will decide not to pick up Chris Carpenter's $15 million club option as he will be 37 at the time.

    So where do they go from here?

    I can see them going out and signing a starting pitcher to take Carpenter's place. That guy should be Mark Buehrle.

    The guy is a workhorse, starting 30 or more games in every season since 2001. He wouldn't miss a beat in switching leagues over to the Cardinals.

    He's one of the top starters on the market, and I see no reason this wouldn't be a good match.

Cincinnati Reds, Matt Capps, CL

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    It's highly unlikely that the Reds would even entertain picking up Francisco Cordero's $12 million club option.

    Not many 37-year-old closers are worth that kind of money. I can only think of two: Trevor Hoffman, who just retired, and Mariano Rivera.

    The biggest holes for the Reds to fill in 2012 will be SS, CL and possibly 2B. A number of solid closers will be on the 2012 market, but one would probably entice the Reds more than the others because of his age.

    They could very likely sign Matt Capps. He and Broxton will be the youngest closers available with Capps having less baggage.

    He would step right in and be solid from day one.

Colorado Rockies, C.J. Wilson, SP

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    The Rockies have got some studs, but they are by no means a complete baseball team.

    Todd Helton's career has just about run its course, their catching isn't very strong, and they have the lesser of two Eric Youngs and not a lot of pitching depth.

    I could see the Rockies making a push for some rotation help first and foremost.

    There are a few solid candidates, but at this point I see C.J. Wilson as a good fit in Colorado. He's obviously had some success as of late and he could definitely help stabilize that group of pitchers after Ubaldo Jimenez.

    They could certainly do much much worse.

San Diego Padres, Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF

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    The Padres have something going for them: a nice young pitching staff with more help on the way.

    The problem is that they have questions marks at literally every other position on the field.

    None of Chase Headley, Ryan Ludwick, Will Venable, Jason Bartlett, Nick Hundley or Brad Hawpe are a long-term or even short-term answer in most of their cases.

    The Padres will obviously be looking for a position player who still has some gas left in his tank. Michael Cuddyer would fit that criterion.

    Is he flashy? No. Does he have a big name? No. Can he play? Yes. Sounds like a Padre to me.

    Cuddyer can play both 1B and RF as well. Having movable pieces makes it easier to add players around someone, as I'm sure you already know.

    You have played Tetris, right?

Los Angeles Dodgers, Prince Fielder, 1B

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    The odds are that the Dodgers' bizarre ownership situation will have worked itself out by the time 2012 rolls around. If it hasn't, the team is in trouble.

    Assuming that things are worked out and the Dodgers have money to spend, where do they look for help?

    They look to someone they have had their eye on for some time now. They haven't been enamored with James Loney's production, so they will try to finally get the beast into Dodger blue.

    The beast I am referring to is none other than Prince Fielder.

    There had been trade rumors this winter about Prince and the Dodgers, but obviously nothing came of that.

    Now—finally—the Dodgers get their man.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Brandon Phillips, 2B

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    The Diamondbacks seem to be lacking venom on offense these days.

    Chris Young is not an everyday player and never will be. I heard someone talking him up a few weeks back, and I was thisclose to barfing all over my keyboard.

    I'm glad I didn't since you can't put these things in the washing machine, can you?

    OK, so back to the D-Backs. They need a CF, 3B, 2B and quite possibly a 1B as well. In 2012, they may just have the wherewithal to do something a little more bold on the free-agent front.

    If the Reds don't pick up Brandon Phillips' club option, he just may find himself in the desert. He would add a little sting to the Diamondbacks offense, no doubt.

San Francisco Giants, Jimmy Rollins, SS

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    By the time we hit 2012, no one will care that the Giants won the World Series in 2010.

    What they will care about is what's next. The Giants will still have a tremendous starting pitching staff, but they will also still have a run-challenged offense.

    They will have needs at SS, 2B and all three OF spots. That's not really a great situation, but they can only change it one player at a time.

    The first player they add will be Jimmy Rollins. The guy is a winner, and he will be an upgrade over their last two shortstops, Edgar Renteria and Miguel Tejada.

    He'll be sticking around for longer than one season, which will return some stability to that lineup.

Tampa Bay Rays, Carlos Beltran, OF

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    Lately it seems the Rays have been willing to bring in some seasoned veterans to play with their young core group of players.

    In 2011, it's Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. In 2012, I can easily see that player being Carlos Beltran.

    Even though he was a huge disappointment in New York, Beltran obviously still has something left in the tank.

    The Rays could probably put him anywhere in the outfield to accommodate the youngsters in the starting lineup.

    There is always room for a solid veteran on a club with tons of young talent.

Boston Red Sox, J.J. Hardy, SS

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    Usually teams like the Red Sox don't have very many holes, so they are able to focus on the few they do have.

    Since Nomar, they have gone through shortstops like an American tourist in Mexico goes through underwear after drinking the local water.

    The Sox haven't really looked to bring in big names to man the position. Instead, they have gone with solid veteran players who won't hurt the team either offensive or defensively.

    In 2012, I see them doing pretty much the same by locking up J.J. Hardy in a short-term contract. He's had some success in the majors, but he has also battled a few injuries.

    He is by no means a star, but he's going to fill a need.

New York Yankees, Chris Carpenter SP

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    Why wouldn't the Yankees go after him? He'd be a short-term commitment, which would allow several of their top pitching prospects—including Dellin Betances, Hector Noesi and Manny Banuelos—to learn the system.

    The signing of Carpenter has one small asterisk: He will only be a free-agent if the Cardinals decide not to pick up his $15 million club option, which is a lot for a 37-year-old pitcher.

    I am confident that the Cardinals will move in another direction, especially if Albert Pujols signs elsewhere.

    I don't believe the Yankees would have any qualms about signing an aging pitcher. It's never bothered them before.

Toronto Blue Jays, Nate McLouth, OF

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    Prior to the past couple seasons, Nate McLouth was a solid multi-tool CF. I see no reason he can't have a few more seasons like that left in him if he can maintain some semblance of health.

    The Blue Jays have a lot of young talent on the way, especially on the mound. Some of their other prospects are a bit more raw; having McLouth in between a couple younger guys in the OF should help somewhat in their development.

    Is he a long-term answer? I highly doubt it, but he is talented and will have some success for the Blue Jays.

Baltimore Orioles, Adrian Gonzalez, 1B

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    The Orioles have taken a step forward in 2011 by signing veterans Derrick Lee and Vladimir Guerrero to one-year deals.

    The negative thing about that is those holes will reopen in 2012, leaving the O's with needs at 1B, DH, LF, SS and SP. 

    Several of their young starting pitchers should be coming into their own in 2012, and what better to help them out by signing a consistent run producer?

    The Orioles took a peek at Prince Fielder this offseason but settled on Derrick Lee on a one-year deal. That left them open to make a run at either Gonzalez or Fielder for 2012.

    Hitting in Camden Yards and continuing to play in the AL East just might be enough to entice Gonzalez to the "House that Ripken Built."

    Oh, and that check with all the zeroes doesn't hurt either.

Minnesota Twins, Carlos Guillen, 1B/2B/3B/OF

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    If, as I have predicted, the Twins lose Michael Cuddyer to free agency, they will be looking for a versatile replacement with a solid bat.

    Versatile doesn't even begin to describe Guillen.

    In the past, he has played every position in the infield and outfield. These days he doesn't really step in at shortstop, but he still plays just about everywhere else, including DH.

    He's a little older than Cuddyer, but can do much of the same things. He wouldn't be a huge signing, but he would fit in nicely with Mauer and Morneau.

Chicago White Sox, Rafael Soriano, CL

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    This offseason the White Sox were content to let closer Bobby Jenks go with the hopes that either Matt Thornton or Chris Sale could take over the closing duties.

    In 2012, Thornton will be a free agent and there is no set role at the moment for Sale. If Sale excels as a closer, this whole proposition is moot. If not, there will be quite a need.

    Rafael Soriano was able to sign a player-friendly deal with the Yanks and has a player option for 2012. I think he may jump at the opportunity to get his own gig as Mariano Rivera will still have a year left on his deal with New York.

    Chicago would be a great fit for him.

Detroit Tigers, Josh Willingham, OF

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    Other than Austin Jackson, no one guaranteed a position in the Tigers' outfield in 2012.

    Enter Josh Willingham.

    I have been a big fan of his for several years now. He's a true professional and a solid hitter and defender.

    At 33, he clearly has some kick left in his chili. He can play both corner outfield positions, which just makes filling out a lineup card that much easier.

    He'll play and he'll play well. The Tigers will be happy to have him.

Kansas City Royals, Edwin Jackson, SP

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    Edwin Jackson is a nomad or maybe even a gypsy. Chose whichever you like because I consider him both.

    Including the White Sox, Jackson has already been on five teams in eight seasons. Kansas City would be team six.

    Jackson isn't a stud by any means, but he is a pretty good pitcher. Is he a top of the rotation guy? No, not really, but he slides in there somewhere in the middle.

    The Royals are young and that includes their starting staff, which will get even younger in the next few years.

    I've probably said this before, but solid middle-of-the-rotation guys are of crucial importance to the success of any pitching staff. Enjoy your stay in Kansas City, Mr. Jackson.

Cleveland Indians, Bill Hall, 2B/SS/3B/OF

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    I'm a little biased, so I may not have a lot of flattering things to say about Bill Hall. I'll start with his best attribute, his versatility.

    He has played every position on the field during his career except first-base and catcher. Among the things Hall has never possessed is any semblance of consistency at the plate.

    Hall has a mutual option with the Astros for the 2012 season, and I'm confident that one or both of the parties will decline. That would leave him to sign with the Indians.

    When Hall doesn't have it in his head that he is a power hitter, he can be relatively solid at the plate.

    When he keeps his hands back and takes an inside out approach, he is a difficult out.

    When he decides to pull every pitch to hit a home run, he is just ghastly.

    The Indians have young talent on the cusp of the majors. You can plug Hall in just about anywhere in a platoon situation or as a solid injury replacement.

    I've seen him play enough, so the Indians are welcome to him.

Texas Rangers, Roy Oswalt, SP

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    You're probably looking at this with your eyes bulging with a dopey look on your face.

    Yes, Roy Oswalt can become a free agent for 2012. He and the Phillies hold a mutual option. If he so chooses, he can move elsewhere. I believe he will do just that.

    Texas would be an ideal fit. He was with the Astros and enjoyed his time in the state of Texas. Having the opportunity to pick Nolan Ryan's brain would just be a bonus.

    Plus, I think Roy enjoyed the big and bright stars deep in the heart of Texas. Who wouldn't?

Oakland A's, Rafael Furcal, SS

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    Billy Beane and the Oakland A's have never been known to shy away from good players that are getting up there in years. In this case, they would be filling a significant hole at shortstop.

    Bringing in Rafael Furcal would be a solid personnel move. He has remained quite healthy the majority of his career. He can consistently get on base, which should make Billy Beane a little giddy.

    Furcal can do a lot of things, and there's no reason to believe he couldn't still do them in Oakland.

Seattle Mariners, Frankie Rodriguez, CL

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    His time in New York has been, simply put, interesting. I don't mean good interesting, either.

    That means wherever he goes, he will have some baggage, which includes sparring with his girlfriend's father and injuring himself in the process. One word describes that situation: stupid.

    Now the Mets hold a ridiculous $17.5 million team option on K-Rod. The only problem with that is that the option could also become vested. In order for that to happen, Frankie must meet three criteria.

    1. Finish 55-plus games in 2011
    2. Finish 100-plus games between 2010-2011
    3. Be declared healthy by doctors at the end of the 2011 season

    I have a feeling that the Mets will do everything in their power to make sure that option will not become vested. If it doesn't, there is no way the Mets will pick it up.

    K-Rod can still pitch, but with that baggage a team like Seattle might be willing to take a flier on him.

    I would, too.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Jonathan Papelbon, CL

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    The Angels had been considering signing Rafael Soriano this offseason, but that never came to fruition. They decided to stick with Fernando Rodney.

    If they stick with Rodney next year, Gene Autry will probably rise from his grave and give Arte Moreno a good swift kick in his arse.

    When there is a guy like Papelbon available, you go after him. I think the Angels are smart enough to figure that out.

    Last season was the only time Papelbon truly struggled in Boston. The Sox signed Bobby Jenks and also have future closer Daniel Bard just itching for his shot.

    Papelbon will right his ship, but he'll be doing it on the West Coast.